From Cairns to Sydney

The journey is almost over, just a bus ride home remains. It was a pleasant Jetstar A320 flight back from Cairns with a cheerful crew. We had $25 meal credit so instead of food we used it to buy a Jetstar 787 model.

We all slept on the flight, which had some lovely views of Sydney on descent. A good end to a long trip. 

I’ll write a summation up later. After a shower and a sleep and everything else about coming home. 

At Cairns on the way home

Here we are at the Qantas Club lounge at Cairns eating fresh fruit and wishing we were in bed. The Jetstar flight back was okay. Managed to get a little sleep but basically just had the flight map on with the John Williams album as the playlist or a relaxation video playing. 

Couldn’t eat much of the curry pork katsu dinner and the other two, who slept most of the flight refused theirs. Same with the banana bread breakfast. Bit disappointing. 

There were lots of niggling bumps but no seatbelt left ghts displayed. Can’t say I enjoyed it too much, but it was okay. Time to fly home now. 

A Rapi:t trip to the airport

Our final day in Japan was spent shopping, partly as a way of escaping the heat. Our JR Passes have run out so we caught the weirdly designed Nankai Rapi:t Beta to Kansai International Airport. 

As always, I’d love to spend longer in Japan but I wish the flight were instaneous to home. 

Universal Studios Japan

From a Japanese film studio yesterday to a Hollywood theme park today. This was our second visit to USJ and we also visited their Singapore sibling earlier this year. 

It felt like Singapore. Hot, humid and big tropical clouds threatening in the sky. None of the miserable wet weather of our last visit. I think I preferred it. 

I would personally like to have gone hunting a Series 500 Shinkansen and visited Takamatsu in Shikoku or Kita Kyushu. The others complain of boredom on trains. Well that’s what I experience at amusement parks. 

I just like the general settings and a bit of the food. I don’t actually like many rides and have to find somewhere to sit or stand while B and Alex go on rides with hour long queues. 

Their first ride was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in the huge Hogwarts recreation. I just went on the walking tour through the dark corridors but Alex emerged crying and dizzy with fear. Even B admitted that it was a scary ride. 

To his great credit he picked himself up and went on a number of other rollercoasters afterwards. 

Meanwhile I watched magic shows, drunk butterbeer and got sunburned. The young lady, Matsumoto, serving the creamy white headed vanilla flavoured non-alcoholic “beer” loved my sushi lifting t-shirt. It’s funny the positive responses I get from locals about my t-shirts, despite them being of the Japanese brand UniQlo. 

The butterbeer came in a delicious “frozen” form or as a cold drink, but nobody had heard of the hot version we tried last visit. 

Alex loved the Minion Mayhem ride, the Flight of the Hippogryph, Jurassic Park and the Snoopy Coaster. We watched Waterworld in Japanese rather than Singaporean English and watched Ron Howard dubbed in Japaneseand wearing a terrible cardigan at the Backdraft show. 

Space Fantasy – The Ride messed it all up. A spinning coaster, Alex emerged motion sick, miserable and exhausted. He didn’t enjoy the amazing 3D/live action hybrid of the Terminator 2 show (which contradicts the only living tissue time travel rule of the movies). I admit the ending was a true assault on the senses. 

His all-you-can-eat was almost nothing when we left the park for dinner and our train got stuck for a long time. Yet he perked up on the way back to the hotel. Not enough to want to enjoy a final view of the city at night. 

Tomorrow evening we begin our return to Sydney. I’m not looking forward to the flight or leaving Japan. 

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

Absolutely exhausted after Kyoto. I used our rail passes to jump aboard the all too familiar Haruka express to the airport, though we got off a Shin-Osaka. It was comfortable with a place to sit and I fell asleep for some of the ride. 
We then caught the subway to Umeda and went straight to the Yodobashi Camera building, where we had one of Osaka’s signature dishes: okonomiyaki, along with yakisoba. 

The shredded cabbage, egg, sliced meat and other ingredients are cooked at your table. Very yummy.

Shopping until dropping followed. Something I really like about this hotel is the bathroom, which is like a traditional Japanese bathroom with a seated washing area and big bath. 

Toei Kyoto Studio Park 

XToei are a major Japanese film and television studio making shows ranging from historical dramas to animation and live action superhero series. In addition to working studios, the Kyoto Park provides a range of activities. 

After another long walk through local Kyoto with its tiny shops, houses and even a temple or two we caught the Sagano railway line a few stops. 

We arrived so late that most of the live shows and demonstrations had finished. After going through the Amazing Maze with its optical illusions we made it to the Jidaigeki show, where they demonstrate some of the effects on a samurai drama set. Despite the language barrier it’s a lot of fun! 

There was also a singsong one lady show of some amazing tied chopstick tricks at the theatre.

That left us with only enough time to wander quickly through the old sets and the Ultramen/Power Rangers displays. Quite intresting, but be warned that many attractions cost extra. Would have been nicer to see the sword demonstrations as well.

Quite fun, but Alex’s highlight was still the ticket gate.

Kyoto Railway Museum

As our train approached Kyoto station this morning I spotted a steam train pulling a collection of open sided passenger carriages. Also at that moment Alex asked to return to the train museum at Nagoya to play with their ticket gate exhibit. 

I suggested that we change our plans and go to the Kyoto Railway Museum instead. 

It was a fairly long and hot walk from the main Kyoto station to the museum, though the last part was through a pleasant park. The steam train reappeared, obviously just shunting passengers up and down a straight track. The smell of burning coal and hot oil evoked memories of the many tourist steam engines in my past. 

Ultimately we didn’t catch that steam train, but we did spend hours in the huge museum. There was an excellent range of displays, different enough from the SCMaglev and Railway Park in Nagoya to make the dual visits worth it. For starters, Kyoto’s had a Series 500 Shinkansen on display, along with a huge roundhouse of steam locomotives. 

There were also excellent working displays on all sorts of operations, including signalling and points, electric and diesel engines and boom gates. And fortunately for Alex (and unfortunately for us) a working ticket dispenser and gate. He printed 27 tickets and spent over half an hour doing circuits of the gate. It drove us mad!

Zoom zoom to Osaka

As we passed Hiroshima the amusingly named Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (for Hiroshima is their home town) was filled to capacity with fans of their beloved Carp baseball team. 

More lights at Osaka after I emerged from the subway at Namba, after transferring off the Shinkansen. Dotombori Street and Shinsaibashi Suji were filled with Asian tourists with selfy sticks and Japanese touts. Makes me long for somewhere quiet.

That’s probably the end of the giant journeys for the short remainder of this trip, at least until the flight home. Oh well, I collected my compass points and travelled as far as I could by Shinkansen. 



I didn’t realise it but last night marked the first time I have travelled the entire Shinkansen network as it currently stands, apart from the tiny spur to Gala-Yuzawa. I was only missing the bit between Kumamoto and Shin-Yatsuhiro as it was still under construction when we visited in 2009.

I’ve done the Yamagata and Niigata Shinkansen lines previously and we’ve travelled the Hokuriku and Akita Shinkansen lines as recently as the past year. 

This trip I’ve gone as far north – Shin Hakodate Hokuto – as you can to as far south – Kagoshima-Chuo – as you can go. 

It’s an amazing fast train network. If only we had anything like it in Australia. 

And right now I’m riding it back to Shin-Osaka. I managed to check into an earlier Sakura Shinkansen, though it meant buying a bento on board for some food. 

The Shinkansen may not be as fun or as interestingly scenic as a slow local train, but when you are as exhausted as I am, the cool comfort is very welcome. 

And so the circuit will be complete and I will be back to where I started this rail adventure from. Family fun time now. 

To Makurazaki and back

Only at Wakkanai, in the north, does the geographical extreme compass point correspond with the terminus of the line. But I am not happy unless I have travelled all the way until the end. 

I rode the Makurazaki Line all the way until it’s namesake, bumping around on the two carriage diesel rail car. It feels positively tropical here, with the humidity, temperature and volcanic soils contributing to luscious growth. Shrubs and grasses slap at the windows of the train. 

There are glimpses of the grey ocean over farmland and towns, sometimes interesting rock formations, deep rivers lined with pines, bamboo and vines. 

At Nishi-Oyama most of the train exits to take photographs of the southernmost station. I wonder if they’ll do the same on the way back. But most of the Cantonese and Korean tourists are off the train now, leaving at intermediate stops for the various coastal attractions. 

I only have time at Makurazaki to grab junk food for the ride back. There are only a few trains that do the whole run per day. It’s a pity, because Makurazaki is known for seafood. Seared bonito tuna sounds yummy, if it’s like that I ate at Kochi on another trip. 

From here it’s back to Kagoshima and the Shinkansen back to Osaka.